The Technium

A Taxonomy of Minds

The variety of potential minds in the universe is vast. As we explore the species of animal minds on earth with increasing respect, we have discovered that we already know many kinds of intelligences. Someday we will meet other intelligences in the galaxies. And long before then we will manufacture millions of new kinds of minds on our own world. These will often be specialized intelligences to perform specialized tasks, and many others will be general intelligences, some superior to our mind in many ways.


Precisely how a mind can be superior to our minds is very difficult to imagine. One way that would help us to imagine what greater intelligences would be like is to begin to create a taxonomy of the variety of minds. This matrix of minds would include animal minds, and machine minds, and possible minds, particularly transhuman minds, like the ones that science fiction writers have come up with.

Imagine we land on a alien planet. How would we describe or measure the level of the intelligences we encounter there — assuming they are greater than ours? What are the thresholds of superior intelligence? What are the categories of intelligence in animals on earth?

Like Minds

I’ve jotted down some ideas. These are in no order and may even contradict each other. Some are examples, some are classes. No matter at the moment.

The principle I assume is that in the real world — even the space of powerful minds — trade offs rule. One mind cannot do all mindful things perfectly well. It will be better in certain dimensions at a cost lesser abilities in other dimensions. So the family of minds will reflect the different ways in which minds make these trade offs.

* Super fast human mind.
* Mind with operational access to its source code.
* Any mind capable of general intelligence and self-awareness.
* General intelligence without self-awareness.
* Self-awareness without general intelligence.
* Super logic machine without emotion.
* Mind capable of imagining greater mind.
* Mind capable of creating greater mind. (M2)
* Self-aware mind incapable of creating a greater mind.
* Mind capable of creating greater mind which creates greater mind. etc. (M3, and Mn)
* Mind requiring protector while it develops.
* Very slow “invisible” mind over large physical distance.
* Mind capable of cloning itself and remaining in unity with clones.
* Mind capable of immortality.
* Rapid dynamic mind able to change its mind-space-type sectors (think different)
* Global mind — large supercritical mind mind of subcritical brains.
• Hive mind — large super critical mind made of smaller minds each of which is supercritical.
• Low count hive mind with few critical minds making it up.
* Borg — supercritical mind of smaller minds supercritical but not self-aware
* Nano mind — smallest (size and energy profile) possible super critical mind.
* Storebit — Mind based primarily on vast storage and memory.
* Anticipators — Minds specializing in scenario and prediction making.
* Guardian angels — Minds trained and dedicated to enhancing your mind, useless to anyone else.
* Mind with communication access to all known “facts.” (F1)
* Mind which retains all known “facts,” never erasing. (F2)
* Symbiont, half machine half animal mind.
* Cyborg, half human half machine mind.
* Q-mind, using quantum computing
* Vast mind employing faster-than-light communications

I am sure I have missed many. If you can suggest other candidates – particularly other possible thresholds or classes of thinking types – email and I will add them to the list, if appropriate. And of course if anyone else has written about similar things, I’d be most grateful to get a pointer.

  • Brett McLaughlin

    A subtype of the Global mind (i.e., large supercritical mind of subcritical brains):

    The Republican Mind

  • Josh B

    Mind capable of copying greater minds and self bootstrapping

  • ever since winning that web award at south by southwest i have pondered the similarities between philip k dick’s “vast, active, living, intelligence system” and the social graph paper we’ve created on our site. i think that’s the category of alien mind i’d like to suggest for your list, because we’re becoming one ourselves.


  • Pure mind – large aware mind empty of content